The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

November 10, 2017

  Forty years ago, in 1977, Geoff Bodine capped a successful season with double wins for the weekend. Chemung ran a 100-lap Open Competition event on Saturday. Following Bodine at the finish were Merv Treichler, George Kent, Maynard Troyer, and Eddie Flemke Sr. Westboro closed out their season with a 50 lapper on Sunday. After an all night ride, Bodine took that one too. Ronnie Bouchard finished second and was followed by George Murray, Bugsy Stevens, Joe Howard and John Rosati.

  Thirty five years ago, in 1982, the only action was at Atlanta where Bobby Allison took the 500-mile win over Harry Gant.

  Thirty years ago, in 1987, the rained out Fall Final at Stafford was run with Reggie Ruggiero taking the win over Jeff Fuller, Brian Ross, Bugsy Stevens, George Brunnhoelzl and Tony Hirschman. For Bugsy Stevens, the day marked the end of his modified career as he stepped out of the Garbarino Mystic Missile for the final time. A NASCAR Modified driver since 1966, Stevens garnered three NASCAR National Modified Championships plus numerous track titles. The SK’s also closed out their season with Bob Potter taking the win over Kerry Malone and Ted Christopher. Phil Rondeau was the Late Model winner.

  Twenty five years ago, in 1992, the Race of Champions was at the Flemington, New Jersey Fairgrounds. Because of the fact that it was a non-NASCAR sanctioned event the absence of the top NASCAR Modified pilots was evident, with the exception of a few. It was very cold and the crowd was way off but the annual running of the event still drew 54 modifieds. New Jersey runner Lenny Boyd took the win over Mike Ewanitsko, Tony Siscone, Ricky Fuller and Ken Woolley. Long Islander Mark Tooker won the Street Stock event. Tony Sylvester finished second with Jerry Young, third. The Triple A-SK Modifieds were also on the race card. Brian Sisco took the win over Roger Heffler and Ted Christopher

  Twenty years ago, in 1997, Joe Nemechek scored an emotional victory as he won the BGN 300 at Homestead, Fla., a track, which claimed the life of his brother. Randy LaJoie finished second and sewed up his second divisional title. Ted Christopher ran strong in the early going but broke an axle and ended up 34th.

  Fifteen years ago in 2002, the Busch North Series capped off their 2002 season on Saturday night with their annual awards banquet. Guest of honor was the 2002 series champion Andy Santerre who took the title by a mere nine points over Matt Kobyluck. Over $360,000 in point funds and special awards were handed out. Judging from what news filtered out it looked like the Busch North Series could very well be running a combined event with NASCAR’s Winston West division at the end of 2003. The event, which would be run in the south in conjunction with a Winston Cup event could be costly but will give competitors in both divisions needed exposure.
  Driver Bo Gunning and car owner Eddie Partridge were officially crowned the 2002 SK-Modified Champions at Stafford’s annual banquet. Jim Peterson took top honors in the Late Model division. Gunning and Peterson received gold diamond rings and champions jackets as well as a trophy.

  Ten years ago in 2007, it looked like former Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion Tony Hirschman had lost his sponsor/car owners as they told him they were retiring from the sport. Hirschman, who was on the Gary Danko radio show, stated that the owners (the Kehele’s) got the team together at the Stafford Fall Final and told them they were retiring at seasons end. Hirschman, who had nothing left to prove, could very well retire himself and devote his time to his son Matt’s career. The younger Hirschman had recently scored an impressive win in the North/South Shootout.
  In other Whelen Modified Tour news it looked like Series Champion Don Lia would be replacing Terry Cook on the Craftsman Truck series in 2008. If that was the case a strong rumor had Bob Garbarino retiring from the sport. Tour regular Wade Cole scored a victory in Connecticut politics when he was elected First Selectman in the town of Hartland. The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island announced at their annual banquet that they would host the Whelen Modified Tour on Saturday night, August 2. The Stafford Speedway was expected to announce their Tour dates at their annual banquet.
  It was announced that Preston, Connecticut Modified car owner and builder Art Barry would join a select group when he would be inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association's Hall of Fame on January 19, 2008. Barry's five-decade career as a NASCAR modified owner and fabricator had seen him build scores of asphalt cars for himself and others. He first came to the forefront of the New York racing scene at the Albany-Saratoga, Airborne Park and Utica-Rome Speedways with a winning coupe driven by Bobby Santos, grandfather of current NASCAR up and comer Bobby Santos 3rd. Since that time, his own cars had been wheeled by such notables as Leo Cleary, Bob Potter, Eddie Flemke, Brett Bodine, George Summers, Jeff Fuller, Greg Sacks, his son, Ken and Mike Stefanik, with whom he won the NASCAR national championship in 2000 and 2001. A tireless worker, Barry is also known for helping others perfect their car's handling, whether or not they were customers of his Spearpoint Auto fabrication business. Prior to teaming up with Santos at the Norwood Arena in Massachusetts Barry fielded a Modified for Chapin, CT’s Joe Trudeau
Joining Barry as inductees would be drivers Buzzie Reutimann, "Barefoot Bob" McCreadie, who has an amazing 507 documented feature wins at some 54 speedways from Canada to Australia, Maynard Troyer and the late Les Deuel, a sportswriter, who covered the local racing scene for both the Albany Times-Union and the racing trade papers
  The newest NYSSCA Hall of Fame members would be inducted at the association's annual awards banquet, set for Saturday, January 19th at the Polish Community Center on Washington Avenue Extension in Albany, NY.
  For the 2008 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season, Stafford Motor Speedway announced they would institute a tire rule for its SK Modified and SK Light Modified divisions. The tire rule would limit the number of tires that teams would be able to purchase each week and use during the course of the 2008 season. SK Modified teams would be allowed to purchase 2 tires each week at the track, while SK Light teams would be allowed to purchase one tire each week at the track. The Waterford Speedbowl management was looking at similar rules. This type of tire rule is not new; in fact it was first used in 1978 when Dick Williams leased the Waterford Speedbowl from the late Harvey Tattersall.
  Connecticut native Joe Lewandoski, who at one time managed the now closed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass., resigned after three years as general manager at the Lake Erie Speedway in Pennsylvania. Lewandoski resigned less than two weeks after saying he planned to return for the 2008 season. In that time, he discovered he needed a new challenge in his racing career.
  Kyle Busch's run of bad luck officially ended Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway. Busch followed his Friday night Truck Series win with a victory Saturday in the Busch Series, giving him a chance today in the Nextel Cup event to become the first driver to sweep all three of NASCAR's national series at the same track on the same But Kenseth, who had no power steering, had nothing for Busch on the restart and he jumped out to a lead of about six car-lengths and coasted toward his fourth Busch Series win of the year. It was the final Busch Series race of Busch's career at Hendrick. He's leaving the team at the end of the season as it makes room for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Busch isn't scheduled to race next weekend in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  Jimmie Johnson took command of the Nextel Cup championship Sunday, winning at Phoenix International Raceway to open a daunting lead over his teammate in the race to the title. It was his 10th win of the season, most since Jeff Gordon won 13 in 1998 and barring a collapse in next week's finale, Johnson will become the first driver to win consecutive championships since Gordon did it in 1997 and 1998. Gordon was off all day. He had a tire rub after making contact with Kevin Harvick, and finished a disappointing 10th. Greg Biffle finished second and Matt Kenseth, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, was third. Tony Stewart was fourth and was followed by Ryan Newman, Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. Kyle Busch, who was trying to become the first driver to win three of NASCAR's national races at the same track on the same weekend, finished eighth

  Five years ago in 2012, With the 2012 season now history NASCAR posted the official point standings for the Whelen Modified Tour Series. Doug Coby had been officially named as the series champion. After fourteen races, which Coby won five, Coby beat Ryan Preece by 11 points for the title. Preece recorded two wins. Defending series champion Ron Silk also won two races and finished third, 23 points in arrears of the champion. Donny Lia, with one win, finished fourth with Todd Szegedy, fifth.
  A total of 52 different drivers entered into competition during the fourteen race season. Sixth through tenth were Eric Beers, Justin Bonsignore, Jimmy Blewett, Ted Christopher and Ron Yuhas JR.
  The New York based Super Dirt Series finished out their season with a special event held at the dirt track at the Charlotte Speedway. Brett Hearn finished the hot streak he started at Syracuse in early October by winning the Super DIRTcar Series big-block modified season finale Saturday night during the PEAK Motor Oil World of Outlaws World Finals. Hearn’s fourth victory of the season completed a string of victories that included the annual 200-miler at the New York State Fairgrounds and the Eastern States 200 at Orange County Fair Speedway.
  Meanwhile, Matt Sheppard finished fourth and became the first driver to win three consecutive series championships.
  Australian racer Peter Britten set the pace throughout the 40-lap event on the four-tenths-mile dirt track and Hearn tried to pass him time and time again, finally getting the job done on lap 32. Hearn also tied the all-time victory record in the DIRTcar modified division with his 373rd triumph.
Britten held off Jimmy Phelps to finish second with Sheppard and Tim McCreadie completing the top five.
  In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Texas Speedway, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski were side-by-side on the final restart, but Johnson charged his No. 48 Chevrolet hard on the outside, cleared Keselowski on the backstretch and led for the final 1 1/2 laps. Johnson won from the pole for the second week in a row, and increased his series lead by five to seven points.
  Kevin Harvick became a five-time NASCAR Nationwide winner at Texas, leading 127 of 200 laps on Saturday night. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had the most important finish, battling an ill-handling car that slid around the track all night and still managed to finish fourth. That got his No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford even with Elliott Sadler for the Nationwide points lead with two races remaining.

  Last year, 2016, On tap was the 14th Annual John Blewett III Memorial North South Shootout in Memory of Charles Kepley at the Concord Speedway in North Carolina. Twenty five Modifieds were on hand. In time trials Matt Hirschman was the fastest as he toured the dog legged oval in 15.249 sec. Second fastest was Jeff Fultz in the Brady Bunch #00 normally driven by Ted Christopher. Brandon Ward, Jon McKennedy and George Brunnhoelzl III rounded out the top five.
  Andy Seuss took the opportunity to pit under caution for adjustments and his mandatory tire change prior to the mid point of the 125 lap event. He restarted near the tail of the field, but by the time the caution flag waved on lap 89 he was running eighth. Many of the leaders in front of him opted to pit for adjustments and tires, but Seuss took the opposite strategy and stayed out. The race resumed and Seuss quickly charged, going from fourth up to second before another caution flag on lap 92. During the restart he was able to slip past leader Steve Masse to take the lead, but behind him Matt Hirschman was on a mission working his way up through the field.
  By lap 100 Hirschman was running fourth and closing the gap on Seuss, but traffic would soon come into play. After taking over third, Hirschman got trapped behind second-place Richard Savary for more than 10 laps. He finally disposed of Savary on lap 120, but that left him only five laps to track down and pass Seuss. Hirschman closed to the back bumper of Seuss within a lap, but Seuss held form. With two laps to go the pair caught a pack of lap cars. Seuss went low and Hirschman tried the top line behind a pair of lap cars in front of them, with Seuss managing to get the better run through the dogleg to hold the lead. Hirschman never got another chance as Seuss held on to score his first victory in the North-South Shootout. Savary came home in third, followed by Jon McKennedy and late model veteran Jeff Fultz in the Brady Bunch #00.
  George Brunnhoelzl III, Jimmy Blewett, Jason Myers, Chuck Hossfeld and Tyler Truex rounded out the top ten.
  Woody Pitkat was the SK Modified winner. A very light crowd was on hand.
  In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Carl Edwards entered Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in a near must-win situation and thanks to a little assist from Mother Nature, Edwards delivered. Edwards was the leader when rain halted Sunday’s race on lap 294 and shortly after the red flag was displayed NASCAR officials declared the race official, making Edwards the winner and guaranteeing himself a place in the championship round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  Kyle Larson led the final 30 laps to win Saturday afternoon’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Larson powered his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to the top of the track on lap 171-restart slipped ahead of Brad Keselowski, who led a race-high 145 laps and held off the Ford driver by .385 seconds to grab his second XFINITY Series victory of the season.
  Gary A Knight started to put together The Modified Touring Series for 2017. In 2016 there was many doubters but Gary came out the winner. For 2017 he had already inked 3 dates and a tire test at the NHMS, he's starting to form his team and a bunch of drivers are climbing aboard. He's building his officiating team and with the naming of Eddie Flemke in charge of race control. The announcement of an event at the Seekonk Speedway on June 10 becomes the fourth date released in a proposed 12 race inaugural schedule. The Modified Touring Series season kicks off at Monadnock Speedway on April 29th.
  On a sad note, Bob Finan, PR chief at the Riverhead Raceway sends word of the passing of Martha O'Rourke. Long time Long Island NASCAR official Martha O'Rourke passed away Wednesday November 2nd at the age of 85 in Ormond Beach, Florida. Martha had retired to the Sunshine State not long after her husband "Big" Bob O'Rourke passed away in 1997. The O'Rourke's called Glen Cove, Long Island home.
  For generations the first person racers would see when they arrived at the NASCAR registration office to sign in would be Martha O'Rourke. She'd also be the last person they'd see as they went to collect their night's winnings be it at Islip Speedway, Freeport Stadium or Riverhead Raceway on Long Island and the New Egypt Speedway in New Jersey. Martha was also instrumental on the old All Star Racing League Series as well the Race of Champions under promotional reins of the late Joe Gerber along with husband Bob. The duo also tried their hand at race promotion with the Dog Leg 200 at the old Trenton Fairgrounds Speedway as well hosting the Long Island Automotive Swap Shop on Long Island every fall.

  That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.02891.Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.E-Mail,

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

Looking Back Archive

Source: Phil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: November 10, 2017

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